[su_heading size=”30″]Sixteen-year-old Macie Stewart is a proven champion on the wrestling mat and on the hunt.[/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN
[su_dropcap style=”light”]S[/su_dropcap]itting at timber’s edge, we waited for the dense fog to lift. We’d been in position for nearly 20 minutes, but couldn’t get a clear look at the roaring red stag, some 200 yards away.
I was with noted outﬁtter, Gerald Fluerty of Wildside Hunting Safaris, and we were in pursuit of red stags on the North Island of New Zealand. I’d ﬁlmed TV shows with Gerald before, but this time I was carrying a camera, hoping to capture some action on ﬁlm.
The hunter was Macie Stewart, a 16-year-old high school student from my hometown of Springfield, Oregon. It was her second day of the hunt, and while she’d passed on a couple nice stags, the rut was in full swing and the valleys echoed with roaring red stags; she was in no rush to end the hunt.
Finally, the fog cleared just enough to conﬁrm the stag in front of us was a shooter. Inching into a better shooting position, Macie got set up in the shooting sticks and waited for the stag to stand.
Moments before darkness consumed us, the fog fully lifted, the massively racked stag let out a deep, guttural roar, and then stood up from his bed. That’s when Macie let him have it with her .308. The stag stumbled and fell.
“Oh my gosh, he’s way bigger than he looked through the scope,” said Macie as we approached the downed stag. Gerald and Macie exchanged high ﬁves and hugs, as this was a moment each will remember forever.
And in a wrestling match, she would have scored two points for a takedown.
Less than a month prior to her late March hunt for red stag in New Zealand, Macie was on the wrestling mat in Portland, Oregon’s Memorial Coliseum. Here, she became the ﬁrst girl in her high school’s history to earn a state wrestling title. From athletics to hunting, Macie Stewart has achieved a lifetime of success, and she’s only a junior at Thurston High School.
“I SHOT MY FIRST BLACK-TAILED deer when I was 10 years old, on Oregon’s Mentored Youth tag,” Macie recalled. “I was with my dad, and it was the day before Halloween. It was a fun hunt, but I messed up something on the camera and I lost all the photos of that deer. I didn’t think much about it then, but now I really wish I had them.”
“I like looking back at the pictures of my hunts because they bring back so many memories that went along with it, not just of the animals, but of the people, the places, and so many other things that go with the hunt,” Macie said. “There are so many fun memories that hunting creates.”
Macie began her wrestling career in sixth grade. “Even before I started wrestling, I was around it a lot,” she explains. “My brother, Zane, who is two years younger than me, started wrestling when he was ﬁve, so I was always around it and liked it a lot.”
Early in high school, Macie tried cheerleading and softball, and while they were fun, to her they just lacked something. “I’m a really competitive person,” Macie elaborated. “But I also love the family feeling wrestling has. Everyone in wrestling is like a family, and when you meet up at big tournaments with other schools, it’s like a bigger family. It’s fun and everyone supports one another. I also like the intensity that goes with wrestling, so that’s my sport, what I do year-round either with my school or in clubs.”
I’ve been on many hunts with Macie and her father, Chris Stewart, over the years. Chris and I took Macie and my son, Braxton – who are the same age – to Wyoming for an antelope hunt when they were 13. They both got nice bucks on a truly memorable hunt. On another hunt in Oregon’s Coast Range, Macie got a Roosevelt bull ﬁve minutes after Braxton got a bear. That was a fun night in camp. Braxton also ﬁlmed Macie taking a ﬁve-point Roosevelt the season before that.
When asked if she gets nervous, Macie smiled, and said, “No, not really nervous; I get excited, but not nervous. I don’t know why.” SHE DIDN’T FEEL NERVOUS when she stepped onto the mat for the state title match either. She’d entered the tournament as the number one seed, which can add pressure to anyone, let alone a kid. She won the semiﬁnal match by a big margin, and though her title match lasted three full rounds, Macie won 6-0.
“I was in pretty good shape heading into state,” Macie shares. “I felt good, but not overconﬁdent.” She feels that way on many hunts, too.
She wasn’t nervous at all during the ﬁnal moments of her red stag hunt. I know of many seasoned hunters who would have been on edge with the long wait and anticipation. “That stag wasn’t going anywhere, we were hidden really well in the trees and the wind was good; we just needed the fog to lift so I could get a shot. That hunt was all about patience.”
“Being in good shape is the key to success on the mat and in the woods,” Macie notes. “And having wrestling season be the same time as hunting season helps, a lot. Hunting deer and elk isn’t easy, and when I push hard on those hunts, they’re actually great workouts that help me keep in shape for wrestling.”
Macie points out other correlations between hunting and wrestling and how they beneﬁt one another.
“Wrestling makes you mentally tough, so the patience part of hunting comes easy to me. The challenges encountered while wrestling also prepare you for so many situations where you need to be mentally strong in life, and have perseverance, and I see that a lot when I’m hunting. Sometimes I want to sleep in instead of go hunting, but when I get out there, I’m always glad I went.”
She goes on. “When you cut weight in wrestling and you ﬁnally win, it’s a great feeling, because you put in so much work to get to that point. It’s like hunting. You put in all this hard work and it comes down to one shot, and when you make that shot, it’s so gratifying. Wrestling and hunting teach you to never give up, because if you quit, you’ll never reach your goal.”
“My favorite part about hunting is being outdoors and getting to travel to other places,” Macie said. “Hunting has allowed me to see some really cool things I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I also love eating wild game; that’s all our family eats. It’s way better tasting than meat from a store, and way better for you. Being a wrestler you have to be in good shape, all the time, and eating wild game keeps me ﬁt, no doubt.”
WHEN ASKED HOW MANY BLACKTAILS and Roosevelt elk she has to her credit, Macie had to think, and still didn’t know for sure. “I don’t really keep track of that kind of stuff,” Macie smiles. “To me it’s more about the experience and the memories, not about numbers.” But she did recall some of her more challenging hunts.
“I’ve had some tough blacktail hunts,” Macie recalled. “There was one big three-by-three a couple years ago. Dad and I spotted him from a long way away, and we had to patiently stalk through the woods, then the edge of a logged unit. Finally, we got to within 50 yards of the bedded buck before we could see him. He was really hidden and we had to move carefully on that one, but it wasn’t easy because it was getting dark out.”
“Last year was a fun hunt, too,” Macie continued. “My brother had shot a big buck in a unit, and packing that buck out, there was so much sign that we went back the next day and spotted another big buck in the same unit. We could only get to about 300 yards, but I got prone and felt really solid, and connected on the shot. That buck had a giant body. We quartered and packed that thing out, but had to go get help from some of our wrestling buddies to do it.”
When asked what she most recalls from her hunts, Macie didn’t hesitate. “The people and the places are what stand out most in my mind,” she said. “This New Zealand hunt was extra special because Mom was with me, while Dad and Zane were hunting another area. That was the ﬁrst time she’d been with me when I shot an animal, in all these years.”
“I also loved the way people in New Zealand hunt,” Macie added. “When we hunt at home, we stay out all day. In New Zealand we got up, ate breakfast, went hunting for a few hours, came back for a big lunch, where their family joined ours, went back out hunting until dark, then their whole family was together again with us for dinner. It was like Thanksgiving every night.”
With May upon us, where will you ﬁnd Macie Stewart? She has a spring bear tag, so you can bet she’ll be spending time in the woods. She also has a demanding spring and summer wrestling schedule, one that takes her around the country, possibly the world. Last year she qualiﬁed for a tournament in South Africa.
What I appreciate most about Macie Stewart is how hard she works. Be it wrestling or hunting, she’s diligent and positive. She doesn’t brag, ﬂood her social media sites with boastful images of animals she’s taken, and she has nothing to prove to anyone.
I’ve been on many hunts with Macie, and not once has she cared about putting on makeup, ﬁxing her hair, painting her nails or worrying about what she looks like in the photos. Macie is an accomplished hunter, statechampion athlete, and a hard worker who will be an achiever in life, no matter what she decides to do. ASJ
Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a full-time author and TV host. His show, The Hunt, can be seen on Netflix. To learn more about the show or New Zealand hunting, visit scotthaugen.com.